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NATS 1720 (4)


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York University
Natural Science
NATS 1720
Carl Wolfe

1 The main intent of writing this essay is to describe the psychological and cognitive aspects of color. I would like to initially focus on the physiological aspects of color perception, including the structure of human eye and brain, how the brain processes information about color and eventually focus on ideas why do colors tend to evoke certain emotions. Accompanied with highly schematic fashion illustrations, the most special features of the color perception procedure are emphasized and well-explained. My goals by doing so are [1] To expand horizons about the field of Physics of light, [2] To provide a comprehensive analysis concerning prominent applications of color in our daily lives. Who is not familiar with the well-known phrase “Seeing is believing”? People rely greatly on their sense of sight so that they have a tendency to compare it with what is trustworthy. But what is the stimulus of sight? For people to see, there must be light. Light is an 1 electromagnetic radiation that travels as a wave. As shown in the following figure , light waves vary in amplitude (height) and in wavelength (the distance between two peaks and troughs). The amplitude affects mostly the perception of brightness, while wavelength affects mostly the perception of color. The lights that we usually see are mixtures of several wavelengths such that light can also vary in its purity (how diverse the mix is). Purity influences perception of the saturation, the richness of colors. 2 In addition, the figure shows that the visible spectrum of wavelengths that humans can see is just a slight portion of the total range. In 1666, the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton discovered the color spectrum by passing pure white light through a prism . In the visible spectrum, lights with long-wavelength appear red, those with medium-wavelength appear green and eventually who has short-wavelength appears blue. I use the word appear, because color is a psychological interpretation rather than a physical property of light itself. A physical color, for instance yellow in sunlight, is consisted of only one wavelength while a psychological color, hue, can be a single wavelength or a superposition of diverse wavelengths . 3 Notwithstanding sight depends on light waves, in order to see, visual inputs must be converted into neural impulses that are sent to the brain. This transformation is accomplished by the eye, which is identified as a living optical instrument. Basically, the eyes provide two main services: They channel light to the neural tissue that receives it, the Retina, and they store up tissue. Light enters the eye through a transparent “window” at the front, known the Cornea. The Cornea and the crystalline lens, which is located behind it, create an upside-down image of 3 objects on the retina. The brain knows how to relate this object to the corresponding positions in the real world. This process is depicted in the diagram below : 1 How does visual information get to the brain? The retina, the brain’s envoy in the eye, absorbs light, processes images and sends visual information to the brain. Although the Retina is just a paper-thin sheet of neural tissue lining the inside back surface of the eye, it contains a complex network of specialized cells. The two main receptors in the Retina are Rods and Cones. Cones play a key role in daylight and color vision, whereas rodes are critical for night vision. Light striking the Retina’s receptors triggers neural signals and these signals move to bipolar cells to ganglion cells. The ganglion cells send impulses along the optic nerve, which is a collection of axons that carry visual information (a stream of neural impulses) to the brain. 4 The process of color vision involves not only our eyes, but also regions of the brain that have a direct link to our physical condition. Electrical impulses travel from the retina and pass through the hypothalamus, which is located below the thalamus. Among his various functions, the Hypothalamus controls mediation of emotional responses, stress response, water and food intake and control of daily cycles in physiological state and behavior . The visual input 1 eventually arrives in the primary visual cortex and is processed : 5 What are the psychological effects of color? Most of today’s designers and artists take full advantage of color psychology theory that instructs them how to convey and transmit emotions on their work to the viewers through color. They have understood that color is a powerful communication tool which can influence mood, be used in signal action and cause physiological reactions. Leatrice Eiseman, color specialist, explains the correlation how color affect us to the behavior of that color in nature: “For example, the color blue is almost always associated with blue skies, which when we are children is a positive thing - it means playing outside and fun. Evolutionarily it also means there are no storms to come. This is why it is reminds us of stability 5 and calm”. Some colors have a universal meaning and association, for example red, orange and yellow are considered warm colors that can spark a variety of emotions ranging from comfort and warmth to anger and hostility. In contrary, the blue, purple and green are considered cool colors that evoke feelings of either tranquility or sadness and indifference. In the chart below, I breakdown what each primary co
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